If the FEC is too (purposely) gridlocked to do it, state Attorneys General should take action...
By Ernest A. Canning on 2/10/2014, 7:05am PT  

Last year, as we reported at the time, California Republicans who sought to sabotage the roll-out of the Affordable Care Act, sent out deceptive mailers to constituents at taxpayer expense directing them to a fake "Obamacare" website.

This year, picking up on the idea that duping the public (committing fraud) is the key to their success, the National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC) was recently found to have created at least eighteen websites built to appear to support Democratic candidates while, in actuality, using the sites to fund raise against those same candidates.

The website seen in the graphic above, for example, appears to support Arizona Democratic Rep. Ann Kirkpatrick's re-election bid --- unless you are very careful to read the fine print. The site, AnnKirkpatrick.com, "might greet visitors with a welcoming photo of the Arizona congresswoman and a screaming 'Kirkpatrick for Congress' logo, but that design belies its true agenda," according to the Los Angeles Times. That agenda, they say, includes duping supporters of Democratic candidates into donating towards their defeat --- a tactic, which, the non-partisan Campaign Legal Center's senior counsel Paul S. Ryan describes as a "slam dunk" violation of Federal Election Commission (FEC) Rules.

As we've recently been reporting, however, "slam dunk" violations of federal campaign finance laws and FEC rules are anything but a "slam dunk" when it comes to their actual enforcement by the FEC...

There is a serious question as to whether the FEC will enforce rules that prevent such deceptive tactics.

As Craig Holman, the Government Affairs Lobbyist for Public Citizen's Congress Watch explained during an interview last month with Brad Friedman on the KPFK/Pacifica Radio BradCast, the six-Commissioner FEC is evenly divided between Democrats and Republicans. Since 2008, Republicans have determined to use that split for little more than political advantage by nominating GOP Commissioners dedicated to holding up virtually any and all campaign finance policing by the federal agency. In the bargain, Holman explained, there has been a "nine-fold" increase in 3-3 deadlocked votes that have effectively blocked FEC enforcement of almost all federal campaign finance laws over the past five years.

Campaign Legal Center attorney Ryan, who sees the GOP's new bogus "Democratic" websites as a "slam dunk" violation, is also the attorney who recently filed a complaint in U.S. District Court seeking to overturn what the plaintiffs describe as an "arbitrary" and "capricious" refusal by the three Republican FEC Commissioners to investigate apparent violations of the Federal Election Campaign Act (FECA) of 1971 by Karl Rove's Crossroads GPS. That refusal, as the complaint details, occurred despite express findings by the FEC's own Office of Legal Counsel that Rove's Republican front group likely violated the law.

While the 3-3 partisan deadlock is problematic, if, as the L.A. Times reports, the supporters of Democratic candidates have been duped into donating money for their chosen candidate's defeat via these new websites, there are remedies available that do not require an FEC ruling. Every state in the nation has laws to prevent fraud. Those laws not only provide civil remedies, but often treat such cases as a criminal offense.

Last year, CA Attorney General Kamela Harris ordered at least ten fake "Obamacare" websites to be shutdown. She and other state attorneys general should undertake the same action with respect to these fraudulent candidate websites created by Republicans. Such actions should also include criminal investigations of those who are responsible for putting them up in what appears to be a very transparent attempt to defraud the voting public.

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Ernest A. Canning has been an active member of the California state bar since 1977. Mr. Canning has received both undergraduate and graduate degrees in political science as well as a juris doctor. He is also a Vietnam vet (4th Infantry, Central Highlands 1968). Follow him on Twitter: @Cann4ing

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